World Health Organization

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On 1 February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared "a public health emergency of international concern" on the alarming rise in cases of microcephaly and Guillain–Barré syndrome. According to the WHO, the rapid spread of the these diseases is possibly linked to the outbreak of Zika virus.

Public Health Emergency

The Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) issued by the WHO is defined as "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response."

On February 1, 2016 an Emergency Committee meeting of 18 independent experts and advisers met by teleconference. The meeting was held under the International Health Regulations, to gather advice on the severity of the health threat associated with the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The committee decided to make the Zika virus outbreak a public emergency. The emergency alert is taken seriously as WHO doesn't issue these declarations very often. This is the just the fourth time that the WHO has declared a public health emergency since the distinction was created in 2007. Declaring a public health emergency could have severe impact on the economies of the affected countries.

Other public health emergencies issued by WHO:

WHO support

WHO is supporting countries to control Zika virus disease through:

  • Define and prioritize research into Zika virus disease by convening experts and partners.
  • Enhance surveillance of Zika virus and potential complications.
  • Strengthen capacity in risk communication to help countries meet their commitments under the International Health Regulations.
  • Provide training on clinical management, diagnosis and vector control including through a number of WHO Collaborating Centres.
  • Strengthen the capacity of laboratories to detect the virus.
  • Support health authorities to implement vector control strategies aimed at reducing Aedes mosquito populations such as providing larvicide to treat standing water sites that cannot be treated in other ways, such as cleaning, emptying, and covering them.
  • Prepare recommendations for clinical care and follow-up of people with Zika virus, in collaboration with experts and other health agencies.

Global Strategic Response Framework and Joint Operations Plan

On 16 February 2016, the World Health Organization has launched a global Strategic Response Framework and Joint Operations Plan to guide international response to the spread of Zika virus infection and neonatal malformations and neurological conditions that are associated with it. According to the WHO, $56 million is required to implement the framework and join operations plan. Out of which, the WHO would fund $25 million to WHO/AMRO/PAHO response. $31 million would be used to fund the work of key partners. The WHO has already activated an Incident Management System to oversee the global response and leverage expertise from across the organization to address the crisis.

Timeline

2016

  • Feb 1: International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika virus meets. Experts observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations in relation to Zika virus.
  • Feb 1: WHO declares "a public health emergency of international concern" in relation to Zika virus
  • Feb 3: WHO expressed concern over a report of the first sexual transmission of Zika virus in the continental U.S. WHO says that the case needs to be further investigated to understand the conditions and how often or likely sexual transmission is, and whether or not other body fluids are implicated.
  • Feb 12: Tests to diagnose Zika virus easily could be available within weeks and not years. A vaccine for Zika is approximately 18 months away, says a top official of WHO. 15 companies or groups have been identified as possible participants for Zika vaccines.
  • Feb 13: WHO, in their weekly report, said that a rare neurological disorder Guillain–Barré syndrome is on the rise in several Latin American countries that have seen Zika outbreak. The GBS has been reported in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela. While, there is no scientific evidence linking GBS with Zika, WHO said that a similar rise in GBS was seen during the 2013-14 Zika outbreak in French Polynesia.
  • Feb 16: WHO says that genetically modified mosquitoes could prove necessary to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The agency said, "Given the magnitude of the Zika crisis, WHO encourages affected countries and their partners to boost the use of both old and new approaches to mosquito control as the most immediate line of defence."
  • Feb 16: WHO launches a global Strategic Response Framework and Joint Operations Plan
  • Feb 23: WHO Director General Margaret Chan says Brazil is doing a good job tackling the Zika virus to ensure that the 2016 Olympic games will be safe for athletes and visitors.
  • Mar 9: WHO says traditional insecticide spraying methods have had no significant impact in slowing down dengue and the same could be applied to Zika virus. Health experts say that there can be other species of mosquitoes that can carry Zika virus, but it is unclear if they can infect humans.
  • Mar 13: WHO says Middle Eastern region is free from Zika virus. Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Ala Alwan praises Kuwait's efforts to prevent Zika virus in the country.

See Also